Viral Marketing Insights Featured in New Report :)


A recent report on India’s Digital Marketing Landscape (published by kstart-YourStory) included an article I wrote about Lessons on Viral Marketing. No nonsense insights from basics of content marketing to tips about how startups can make it fast, cheap and viral. Find the article below and here’s the full report PDF. Happy reading :) Feel free to ask questions in comments or join my mailing list for updates on killer content marketing and the upcoming book – cheers.. Aashish

A Happy Accident

In February 2014, I made a video that documented the last day of the infamous Gurgaon toll plaza. The video was about creating a happy memory, and so I decided to pay the toll for the person behind me and capture this random act of kindness in a video.

That day, I discovered two things: It costs just Rs 21 to make someone smile, and that if content is topical, newsworthy, and inspires action, it could go viral. That video was shared across Reddit and featured on Storypick, NDTV, IBN Live, Buzzfeed and put me on the radio the next day. Even today, more than two years later, a search for ‘Gurgaon Toll Surprise’ on Google throws up links to the video across the first two pages.

Before this, a viral video to me was nothing but a ‘happy accident’

Before this, a viral video to me was nothing but a ‘happy accident’, when the stars were in line, your luck was shining bright, and you had the blessings of a guru. That one video started my journey in learning the method to the madness in viral videos. And as I kept going, I kept recording the learnings on the notes app on my phone. The learnings from the first, I applied to the next video, which again went viral. I conducted some experiments, and another went viral, and went so big that it blew my mind. A video made in August of that same year, clocked seven million views in a few months, was shared by 3.5 lakh people and reached 25% of Facebook‘s internet user base in India! The same video became Asia’s most shared branded Facebook post and went on to win awards. The notes in my phone kept increasing, and I knew at the back of my mind that the day these virals stop, that’s the day I’ll be done, back to the rat race. So learnings and experimenting became an obsession. In a span of one year, multiple videos went viral, hit millions of views, and some even went far beyond our borders and went viral in China!

Today, these videos have garnered over 130 million views, and have been shared by over 3 million people.

Venturing into content marketing was a natural evolution after years spent in social media and website development. I realised that everything revolves around remarkable content, to the point that every brand today has become a media company.

So what makes great content? I have a five point checklist from two years of research. To make a share-worthy video, the ideas should be inspirational, useful, topical, celebrate the viewer’s life, or change the world. If the content falls into these buckets it’s a go, otherwise I trash it. I believe virality can happen as long as there’s compelling share-worthy content. Piggybacking on Internet trends is one way to increase the chances your content will go viral. News jacking gets your content super-fast reach and engagement when done right.

Focus on the user! Make their life easy and they will come in millions looking for you, downloading your apps and becoming your evangelists.

Content Marketing 101

Content marketing is like a rocket ship, you need fuel every day for it to go further and sometimes you need nuclear fuel to take it light years ahead! Start with images as everyday content and invest time and resources for the nuclear video once in a while. It’s true that videos offer a more immersive experience, but if your resources are limited, it’s best to stick to memes and images. Your top priority should be kick-ass storytelling. Don’t worry about production value since most of your content would be consumed on mobile devices and you don’t need fancy production to make an impact on that tiny screen.

Be so good that they can’t ignore you.

It is crucial to gain initial traction when you release your content: we target 100 shares in the first 10 minutes. It gives the content a jump start. One way is to reach out to blogs and news sites to pick it up. Cultivate relationships with blogs. If one focuses on creating kick-ass industry-leading content, they will seek you out.

The Magical Metric for Viral Content

In January 2016, we launched a video for ixigo, which became so big, it almost broke the internet. It was a video experiment using images and it hit 50 million views in a few weeks, was shared by 1.3 million people and sky-rocketed app installs for ixigo, the elusive ROI we’re all after. We replicated that success in multiple videos and crossed the 10 millionmark. It proved my belief that powerful content can catapult a brand and give it the reach of a TV ad on ridiculously low budgets. And when the ROI baby starts to dance, it’s a good day for everyone. :)

The magical metric I use is to track its shares and then reach.

Success for a viral video is decided by these two factors, in my experience. Also, the game just got tougher; now, only if a video hits a million it’s considered a hit; last year it was just 100,000.

Tracking ‘shares’ on Facebook is easy, but when we share it on WhatsApp there’s no way to find out how far it went. Until we get analytics for WhatsApp, I use the old-school formula to test whether the content has gone viral. The only way to track WhatsApp is to share something in a user group first, say your company group. If it comes back to you from your family or peers, then consider it a hit.

I do not subscribe to the view that incentivising viewers will increase virality. Your content should be compelling enough for people to share it. In my experience, incentivising hasn’t worked. The real goal must be to have you ‘share’ out of choice, not by a mail from your boss or arm-twisting by a friend.

Choosing The Right Platform

The more you re-package and distribute your content, the better. Blogs, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Slideshare, mailers…build an audience base wherever you can, and remember, the rules are different for each.

Success on YouTube requires a solid subscriber base, which will take months or years to build. However, when Facebook opened up to video content, it opened the floodgates for distribution, since many brands already had a fan base on their pages.

I feel Facebook has sharing in its DNA; YouTube not so much.

Right now, Facebook is dominating the videos space and is injecting more videos in your news-feeds; it makes sense to experiment with video and reach millions organically. ‘Shares’, in my experience, make or break a video.

LinkedIn can also be a platform to generate more views for your content. Super value content with actionable insights is widely shared on Pulse, LinkedIn’s version of the newsfeed. At the bottom of your article, create an option for people to subscribe for more via email. This way, you’re collecting users from LinkedIn only. As you start building that list and distributing content, you start getting shares in the LinkedIn ecospace, and it attracts more views and shares.

In the end, pick a platform that makes sense for your business, where your users hang out most. If you’re in the B2B space, think Slideshare or LinkedIn. For anything B2C, kill it on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp, and now the rapidly growing Snapchat.

Future of Video Content in India

It’s raining videos everywhere – from Facebook news-feeds to family groups on WhatsApp. More than 50% mobile traffic is already dominated by videos. Also, with 4G expected to become mainstream in 2016-2017, Facebook will start injecting more videos in news-feeds (as it does in other countries). In the coming years, I see videos taking over in a big way, replacing local language content in India with more visual storytelling.

There’s an incredible growth happening in India right now: mobile numbers are sky-rocketing. And it’s not just Mumbai, Bangalore, and Delhi, but tier II cities that have maximum momentum. An entire generation of users has completely skipped the desktop era and is experiencing the internet for the first time on their mobile devices. We have seen mobile native videos work best, and videos that add value to their lives – not blatant ads – get shared by peer groups. Until the early ‘90s, there was just one TV channel and the idea of a remote control didn’t exist, but when multiple channels came on the scene, the BS radars in our minds evolved and we switched as soon as we saw ads. Users today have BS radars so evolved that as soon as there is a hint of an ad, they bounce off to the many options available. When the videos are authentic, add value, respect users’ time and attention and engage in the first 3-6 seconds, and are native to tiny mobile screens…that’s when the magic happens.

Startup Tip: How To Make It Fast, Cheap And Viral

There are three surefire ways to market your video content effectively. First, pick kick-ass topics. Research and curate, and use the five buckets of picking share-worthy topics. Second, find a video/content that comes close to what you want in terms of sensibility, so you have a creative yardstick. Third, either get your video guys to shoot or hire filmmaking students. They are skilled and passionate, and you give them direction, in terms of ideas and sensibility. This keeps the costs low, ensures good quality, and has potential to be shared like crazy.

Do 10 such experiments, and two will work, just like movie studios. We have two teams in our office: one that spends money and gets results, and then there’s us who get results without spends. To me, spending is easy, but getting there organically is startup swag! My number one growth hack is simple: Focus on the user! Make their life easy and they will come in millions looking for you, downloading your apps and becoming your evangelists.

(Copy credits: Anisha Abraham, Growth Hacks India)

Aashish Chopra is Head of Content Marketing at ixigo. He was named DMAi Content Marketer of the Year, at the Direct Marketing Association India (DMAi) Awards in February 2016. He recently was part of the ‘Ask Me Anything on Facebook’ event hosted by Growth Hacking India where he answered questions on everything from creating viral content and choosing the right platform to marketing content effectively. He blogs at

A Content Experiment Which Broke The Internet


This is the story of a content experiment which grew so big, it smashed our benchmarks and created a whole new level of ‘Crazy’. It was early January and from the trends predicted for 2016, we knew this year belonged to videos. Videos are raining everywhere, from Facebook news-feeds to family groups on WhatsApp. More than 50% of mobile traffic is already dominated by videos, coupled with sky-rocketing mobile users in the country, it’s not just about videos but videos made for mobile. This is the story of how we took an innocent little content post and packaged it into a short and crisp video which hit 50 million views in under 3 weeks! (Learnings from experiment below)

Are You Kidding Me?

The challenge was to take a listicle with interesting content and fascinating pictures and convert it into a video. It had to move fast and engage and not look like a slide show (hate those lousy slideshows with cheesy animations). The strategy for a video listicle was born. Little did we know that this little experiment done on near zero budget, will catapult our reach, engagement and conversions to mount everest.

The Results – Beach Please!

We know from experience if something has viral potential, the numbers snow-ball, shares and views accelerate by the hour. The video hit a million views in ten hours, and on Day 3 the views were accelerating at a staggering 11,000 views per minute! Here’s the video


In One Week:

  • The video hit 40 million views
  • Shared by a million users
  • Received 300,000 comments
  • Reached 150 million news-feeds on Facebook
  • Added 200,000 new fans to our Facebook page
  • Made ixigo Facebook page the fastest growing in the country on that day
  • Got 20,000+ additional app installs for ixigo apps

“A travel video that broke the internet”

“ixigo proves Facebook (not YouTube) is the place for video marketing”

“ixigo lists world’s most unusual beaches”


All In One Week – Look Closely!


“The power of content marketing is the fact that a near zero budget video can compete with a TV Ad and beat it with numbers!”

Learnings – From The Trenches

  • First 3-6 seconds are the most crucial: News-feeds are getting chaotic, human attention spans are dropping. First impression is crucial (thumbnail image), but the ‘second first impression’ is the first 3-6 seconds, we need to move fast, engage and get them to hit ‘share’, the magical metric for viral content.
  • Sound elevates: Even though Facebook auto-plays the video, music/sound plays a big role. Bad quality video I’ll watch but bad sound is a deal breaker. The sound / music must elevate the visuals.
  • Move fast: Nothing must be static even for one frame: we panned pictures, added fast moving globe transitions. Videos are called moving pictures for a reason ;)
  • Square videos: The vertical/square videos which vine/instagram started work well for mobile audiences, since the format is native to mobiles. You don’t have to tilt the screen and they take up more real estate on the phone. And it’s no rocket science to know that mobile traffic is killing desktop in India!
  • Facebook video: Facebook has sharing in it’s DNA, not so much on YouTube. Facebook videos work when they are short, fast moving and tell the story in moving picture more than dialogues. You can use call to action buttons on videos and most importantly Facebook provides kick-ass distribution for video content compared to YouTube.
  • Keep Experimenting: We replicated the practices into a Republic Day video, which hit a decent million in 3 days. Operate like a movie studio, do ten experiment, two will work :)


One More Thing, Seriously!

In the last two years it has been a roller coaster ride in producing, distributing and decoding viral content. I’m compiling it all into a non-nonsense book. It has the stories of learnings from the content marketing trenches, of how experiments became best practices for multi million views viral videos. About creating viral-worthy content, the art of news-jacking, earning users’ trust and coming up with topics for the next game changer. Join the mailing list and I will update you when it comes out :)

Oh BTW Here’s The Video

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And This One Hit a Million in 3 Days, Same Learnings, On India’s Republic Day (News-Jack)

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Video Marketing – Q & A

Screen Shot 2015-09-18 at 4.30.44 pm

One hour of crazy typing, awesome questions and a vibrant group. Prateek Shah organised a Video Marketing chat on Facebook recently, and the rapid fire questions made for a very energetic afternoon :) The event link is now an archive of sorts with questions and answers about video marketing. From review of a video, to best practices to ROI, we covered it all. Check it out

Few questions asked in the chat

Q: Are there platforms other than YouTube and Facebook, that brands should seriously focus on for promoting video content?

Q: What is the difference between video marketing and video blogging? Are they same? How can they be used in b2b business/lead generation?

Q: Can you share some key case studies which gives a great perspective on how a growing brand leaped ahead just by following a strong video marketing strategy.

Q: So I started this ecom startup and am on a very tight budget. How do I go start with DM to let the people know about everything. Get some sales and create awareness!

Q: We build multi author blog, we are trying to promote multi host video channel. What no of volumes we must aim at to promote the Expert?? (I mean how often videos should be released and total no of videos)

Q: How can we generate website traffic with the help of video content?
(It is for marketing of events not for a product)

Q: How do you measure the success of a video marketing campaign? What do you measure?

Q: Does having product videos on product page help more than exclusive videos on Youtube page for an e-commerce company?

Q: What are the best practices to control cost while promoting a brand through videos and to engage audience?

Q: I’ve made a video for my app marketing, according to all the rules and guru research. I made it very short, crispy, informative and what not. I still am struggling to understand why is my video not getting good response? Can you throw some light on it by quickly taking a look at it?

Q: At what stage one should focus on Video marketing in a startup. Should it be done parallel or keeping in view the kind of engagement it demands, done at a later stage. Sounds basic, but just in case your experience can throw some light on this.

Q: How to do marketing in youtube?

Q: Which is the best platform for video marketing? Facebook or Youtube?

Q: Does Instagram video marketing work in India?

Check out the answers :)